NFC/Saints Playoff Picture Entering Week 17
The two NFC South match-ups in the final week of the 2017 NFL regular season schedule are really big.
Well, the two games will go a long way in not only determining the entire NFC playoff field, but playoff-seeding as well.
The New Orleans Saints play their regular season finale on Sunday, when they travel to Tampa, Florida, to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while the Atlanta Falcons play host to the Carolina Panthers.
This is what the NFL wanted when they decided to play divisional games in the last two weeks of the season; a lot on the line.
The Saints are currently 11-4 on the season, and tied for first place in the NFC South with the Carolina Panthers, while the Falcons are battling for the final wild-card playoff spot, at 9-6.
The Saints could make it real easy on themselves, and clinch the division title this Sunday. That would be the case, with a win over the Buccaneers, a team who has very little to play for, at 4-11, and a team that the Saints defeated earlier in the season, 30-10.
New Orleans holds the tie-breaker over Carolina based on their two head-to-head wins over the Panthers.
That would be the best case scenario, but a lot could still change, in terms of seeding.
For instance, if the Saints lose, and the Panthers win, then Carolina would win the division crown, and the Saints would enter the playoffs as a wild-card team.
The Saints could finish as high as the #3-seed, and could also finish as low as the #5-seed.
Let's look at the Saints' playoff possibilities:
For New Orleans to enter the playoffs as the #3-seed, they would have to win on Sunday, and the Los Angeles Rams, who hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints, would have to loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
If the Saints and Rams both win, then New Orleans would enter the playoffs as the #4-seed.
If the Saints lose on Sunday, they would enter the playoffs as either the #4-seed or #5-seed, depending on what the Panthers do against the Falcons.
The Eagles, Vikings, Rams, Saints, and Panthers have secured five of the six NFC playoff spots, with the Falcons and Seahawks still alive for the final playoff spot..
Let's take a look at the current NFC playoff picture.
The Philadelphia Eagles, at 13-2, have clinched a first-round bye, and home field advantage in the NFC.
The Minnesota Vikings, at 12-3, are locked in as the #2-seed, based on their head-to-head win over the Rams, as well as their conference record.
The Los Angles Rams, at 11-4, are currently the #3-seed. The Rams, by virtue of a win over the Saints earlier this season, hold the head-to-head tie-breaker. The Saints can pass the Rams this week, with a win over the Bucs, and a Rams loss to the 49ers. The Rams can enter the playoffs as the #3-seed, should they beat the 49ers.
The Saints, Panthers, and Falcons are currently the 4-6 seeds, and all three would get in, simply with the Falcons defeating the Panthers.
If Atlanta loses, they can still make the playoffs, if the Seahawks stumble against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Seahawks would need a win over the Cardinals, coupled with an Atlanta loss to get in.
So, really, it's not all that complicated, with 5 of the 6 teams securing playoff berths, and only two others still alive for the 6th and final spot.
Seeding is what is still very much up in the air, and will be determined this week.